JJ Perez, InsideRunnerSports.com

UTSA Football Practice Report

UTSA Football returned to practice on Monday following a week off due to spring practice. It was the fourth overall practice this spring. InsideRunnerSports provides you a report.

By JJ Perez
For InsideRunnerSports.com

Back to work
After taking last week off for spring break, UTSA was back on the football field for practice session #4 of the spring. Head Coach Frank Wilson said the group came back ready to work.

“It was phenomenal,” Wilson said about returning from spring break. “I thought our energy was outstanding. I think our transition was on par with where we needed to be to be efficient. Guys were eager to get back out here today.”

Wilson said all of the players reported back to the team on Sunday.

“We had no incidents, guys were back on time,” said Wilson.

Prior to the team leaving for spring break, the coaching staff gave players various examples of what not to do during their time off.

“We used it as a lesson, to be responsible, to take care of yourself to take care of the team, and to be unselfish in the things that you’re doing. They did those things.”

Building a winning culture
Coach Wilson called Monday’s workout “one of the better practices” this spring. Wilson said it started with team meetings early in the morning and continued on the field.

“We’re creating a winning culture,” said Wilson. “Everything counts. From the moment they come through the gate, the way that they stretch. And understanding what you went through in a unit meeting, that was installation for the day, that’s now a walk-through, that’s now a full unit or team. It’s imperative that you transition it from one phase to another.”

Monday’s practice was organized a little different in terms of the order of the various drills that were conducted.

“We fought, we competed,” said Wilson. “We stayed together as units and did some competition. They responded in a big way. We’re just very pleased with the effort and energy.”

Wilson went on further to say that he’s noticed a change in the overall culture.

“The culture is better than it’s ever been. You have big smiles on their face while they’re doing hard things. I’m really enjoying our team.”

Harris Speaks
For the first time since arriving at UTSA in 2015, sophomore QB Manny Harris spoke with media.

“Practice was pretty good. We’re just going out there and competing every day,” said Harris. “All of the other quarterbacks are pushing each other so I think we’re coming along pretty good this spring.”

As a third-year sophomore, Harris says he’s grown as a football player.

“From a maturity level, that’s where I’ve improved at. Everything is just really starting to slow down for me.”

A decorated high school player, Harris hasn’t played in two seasons at UTSA, but he says he’s not frustrated.

“I just got to do what I’ve got to do,” said Harris. “I can’t get frustrated about it. Everything is just going to take care of itself. The coaches will make the right decision when they’re ready.”

A native of Copperas Cove in Central Texas, Harris redshirted in 2015. Last season, he dressed and travelled to all of the games but did not play.

Building O-line depth
One of the areas to watch this spring is the development of the offensive line. While there are some key returners slated to come back, there is a lack of experience with some players.

Veteran offensive lineman Kyle McKinney says the o-line unit is using this spring to build depth.

“By this spring we’re creating tremendous depth for this fall by everybody knowing each position,” said McKinney. “We have everyone knowing the center position, everyone knowing the guard and tackle. Anyone can play any position.”

Primarily a guard throughout his career, McKinney says he’s been working at the center position this spring.

Right now, I’m a center,” said McKinney. “But as you can see it’s a roulette of o-linmen.”

McKinney says he’s noticed some of the younger players taking advantage of the reps they are getting in practices.

“I see a lot of stuff that I use to go through, making mistakes and then getting it right,” said McKinney. “They’re getting tons of reps in. I wish I had that many reps when I was younger.”

Pro Day moved
UTSA’s annual Pro Day has been moved to Tuesday, March 28, a spokesman said Monday. The event was originally tentatively scheduled for March 27. Pro Day will feature various workouts from former Roadrunner players in front of numerous scouts representing NFL teams. The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 27 and goes through Saturday, April 29. 

By Jerry Briggs
For InsideRunnerSports.com

Piranhas to the ball
The name of a feared South American fish species surfaced Monday as a description for the play of the UTSA defensive line.

As new line coach Bo Davis called it, 'Piranhas to the ball."

"I thought our defensive line was outstanding today," UTSA head coach Frank Wilson said. "They penetrated the line of scrimmage.  They disengaged from blocks.  They had a scoop and score and touchdown today."

Junior defensive tackle Kevin Strong Jr. was credited with the strip, and sophomore end Solomon Wise picked it up and ran it for the TD.

"Just flying all over the place," Wilson said.  "As coach Davis called it, 'Piranhas to the ball.'  They're pursuing."

UTSA returned to practice following a week off for spring break.  Overall, it was the fourth practice out of 15 in the team's spring camp.

Wilson applauded his players for avoiding "incidents" during the break and then showing up on time upon their return to camp.

"This morning, meetings were outstanding, and (we) just had one of our better practices, coming off spring  break, as good as we've had all spring long, period."

Attitude change
Senior guard Kyle McKinney said he has noticed a change in atmosphere on the team since he arrived on campus in 2014.

"I think it comes down to the atmosphere," McKinney said.  "When I was a freshman, there was a lot of problems going on, inside the locker room.  Now I feel like eit's more of a mature mentality. It's all about winning.  The egos are out of the water when it comes to playing against each other, every single day.  It's all about winning and getting better." 

Quarterbacks scrutinized
Coaches are watching closely the play of the backup quarterbacks, hoping to find someone who can emerge as the No. 2 behind Dalton Sturm in the fall.

Backup candidates include third-year sophomores Manny Harris and Jaylon Henderson and freshman Bryce Rivers, who played at StevensHigh School last fall.

Also in camp are two walk-ons, junior Brandon Garza and redshirt freshman Clay Roberts.

Frank Harris will join the team this summer.  Harris, a standout last fall at ClemensHigh School, is one of the top prospects in UTSA's 2017 recruiting class.

Manny Harris (no relation to Frank) said the quarterbacks are helping each other.

"I would say there's a lot of competition, said Harris, a former record-setting player at Copperas Cove.  "We're all bringing the best out of each other.  I really like Bryce.  He's a really good freshman coming in.  I would say we all just help each other compete every day."

Asked if he felt he could solidify the No. 2 job with a good spring, Harris seemed uncertain.

"I just have to have a good spring and then it's all up to the coaches," he said.  "We'll see from there.

Recruited by the previous coaching staff, Harris hasn't played in the two years he's been on campus.

"He's doing some good things, Wilson said.  "We need him to be able to be productive if the opportunity presented itself and he gets into a game.  He's a smart young man.  He does things that we ask of him.  We just hope that he can continue to progress."


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